Union Institute & University’s historical commitment to ethical and creative leadership and the insights gained over the past 50 years as a leader in adult learning is the inspiration for the monthly series, Union Leaders.
This month’s Union Leader is Dr. Glenn Kendall. Dr. Kendall founded Youthaven Public Ecovillage, Inc. based on his UI&U Ph.D. study, “Understanding effective models of group care: enhancing group home services for homeless, abused, and runaway children.” This new group care model is for residential and non-residential foster care, homeless, and vulnerable youths. The innovative model is a public ecovillage, which means that the organization will expand the traditional group home model to include an edible landscape, an organic urban farming-to-plate program, and renewable and sustainable energy systems. Another central feature is an entrepreneurial and job development program (a modest business incubator). The Youthaven Board wants to offer something new and exciting in the field of group home services to residential and non-residential foster care, homeless, and vulnerable youths. Learn how Dr. Kendall has used his leadership skills to help children in the Q & A below.
Q: How do you define leadership?
A: I define leadership as the ability to establish a meaningful and sustainable relationship (you can say a type of sacred contract) among staff, clients, and stakeholders. Staff must dynamically involve stakeholders so that both serve as the guardians of the mission benefiting children most in need. Many people may think of leading in front; however, followership demonstrates that effective leadership is a synergistic and accountable process dynamically involving leaders and followers. All stakeholders must harmoniously work together to achieve the vision of the organization that lifts the hopes among some of the most traumatized children in our society.
Q: When did you first feel that you were a leader? What was the experience?
A: My leadership journey began when I was working for the Job Corps Program in Brooklyn, New York. One day I went to the center director and explained that staff needed more time to effectuate the desired evaluation results of corps members, or at least slow down the rate to early termination from the Center. In my judgment, the center director approved the dismissals of far too many Job Corps members who needed safe bedding; job training, placement, and G.E.D.; and a secure program to learn to become responsible adults. I said to myself, if given a chance, I will provide future adolescents opportunities to become successful adults without the burden of unwarranted early terminations.
Q: Share an example of how you have put leadership in action.
A: Founding Youthaven Public Ecovillage, Inc. is an example of putting leadership into action. I want to use an evidence-based model to change the paradigm for group homes, which focuses on respecting clients, expanding their horizons through enriched programs, and connecting their lives to the importance about nature. Young people can learn how to live in an ecological type of program or community, and thereby grow to better care for each other, our immediate environment, and the residence of nature–trees, animals, etc. Although funding and money are clearly necessary, on the global and local scales, money is less important when compared to having clean water, clean air, and healthy produce, the required elements needed to sustain all life. One example to put this type of leadership in action is to incorporate the use of solar panels, greenhouses, and edible landscapes on all our sites. Furthermore, Cincinnati has one of the highest percentages of children in poverty in the nation and a large number of former foster care and homeless children in the Ohio prison system. Foster care and homeless adolescents are much more susceptible to be incarcerated than other adolescents living in the general population. We have to find better ways to help vulnerable youths; a public ecovillage may be one solution.
Q: What leader do you admire most and why?
A: There are many leaders that I admire. A partial list includes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandala, Michael Moore, and political commentator Rachel Maddow. However, it is difficult to pick only one. But four leaders rise to the top for me. They are:
- President Obama: The first African-American President who won two terms of office.
- Abraham Lincoln: He kept the union together and created a model for abolishing slavery.
- Shirley Anita Chisholm: The first African American woman elected to Congress (representing Brooklyn, New York) and to run for the President of the United States during the Democratic primary during the 1970’s.
- Katherine Coleman Gable Johnson: A NASA mathematician. She was directly responsible for the safe trajectory and return landing for astronauts Alan Shepard and John Glenn. She did it without the use of computers. Without the calculation this African-American genius and the Black women who worked for the NASA, the space program would have significantly been impeded.
Q: What is your favorite inspiring leadership quote?
A: The quote closest to my heart is one articulated by Martin Luther Kings, Jr., but the original author is no doubt Unitarian minister Theodore Parker addressing slavery in (and even outside) the United States during the 19th century: Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
About Dr. Glenn Kendall
Glenn Kendall, Ph.D., is the Founder and Executive Director of Youthaven Public Ecovillage, Inc. His passion has always been to help children and teens who are most in need of safe and caring homes. Throughout his thirty-five years of public service, he only worked for three employers. The last two were the City of New York as its Head Start Contract Manager to ensure mandated compliance affecting services for 12,000 children, and ten years later with the National Park Services, which included working as the Residential Supervisor and Clinical Director of a Job Corps Program in Brooklyn New York for 225 young people.
Dr. Kendall attended four graduate schools. He qualified for a Master’s from Teachers College, Columbia University. Later, he earned three degrees: A Master’s in Humane Education from Cambridge College, a Master’s in Theological Studies from Drew University, and a Ph.D. from Union Institute & University. All of his studies were designed to improve the group home model for homeless, abused, and foster care youths. He was a nominee for the UI&U Marvin B. Sussman Doctoral Award.